Pembroke Hill installing seat belts and policy on school buses

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A bus accident last year in Bonner Springs is changing the way Pembroke Hill School transports students. Starting with the next school year, students at Pembroke Hill will be on buses with seat belts and will be required to wear them.

“We believe the current safety systems built into school buses are effective. Given what our students experienced last fall, we decided that it was important to seek out any possible enhancements in this area,” Dr. Steve Bellis, Head of School at Pembroke Hill, said.

In August of 2013, a bus carrying sixth grade girls from Pembroke Hill toppled over on the ramp from K7 to K32 in Bonner Springs, sending 22 children to the hospital. Some parents we spoke to on Thursday declined to go on camera, but expressed concerns about their children being strapped into a bus if there is an accident. They fear that rescue workers may have a hard time getting them out.

“We haven’t heard those concerns. I think the people see the advantages of the three-point seat belts outweighing any potential disadvantages,” Dr. Bellis said.

An accident investigator also said that the seat belts should enhance transportation safety.

“I think it is a concern, yes, but I don’t think the negatives outweigh the positives, whenever adding seat belts to school buses,” Jamie Lamb with KCPD’s Accident Investigation Unit said.

Previously the seat belts on school buses have been the lap belt that can cause injury according to experts. But these buses will have the three-point harness that is in every car on the road.

“It's a new innovation in the industry and we have sought out people who have experienced them, have used them at schools across the country,” Dr. Bellis said.

Officer Lamb said it’s not because of safety factors that more school buses do not have seat belts.

“It is very expensive to outfit school buses for 60 students,” he said. “School buses are very, very safe vehicles even without seat belts. They are just going to get better.”

Jamie Shipley with Midwest Bus Sales, who sold the buses that will be used by Pembroke Hill, said the busses cost anywhere from $90,000 to $100,000 and $8,000 of that is for the seat belt technology. Past the financial challenge, Dr. Bellis anticipates that students won’t offer much resistance to wearing them.

“You know, our school motto is: Freedom with responsibility. We will expect the students to exercise responsibility to keep themselves safe,” Dr. Bellis said.

The buses will also have a monitor besides the driver to make sure the students are strapped in. Pembroke Hill is the first school in Missouri to have seat belts in full-sized buses, so they are somewhat of a guinea pig in the school bus seat belt debate.

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  • Heather Lear

    They would need a bus assistant per bus. To keep the seat belts in force, no warnings, instant bus referral if disobedience. Each student and parent needs to sign a paper stating that the student will obey such rules and knows the consequences if rules are broken.

  • Candace Rocha

    I drive a bus. I can not see every town wanting to pay to have a monitor on every but to make sure that every child is belted in and stays belted in. That is an added expense that is going to wear thin very quickly. then when that happens who is going to monitor those children and make sure they don’t use those seat belts as a weapon? And when that happens is the driver going to get blamed? Because I can see a child getting mad at another child and taking the seat belt strap and using it to hit the other child.
    After all, Look what happened to that boy who told on those kids a year ago and and got the $&*# beat out of him by three thugs on the bus right behind the driver. As a driver, we are not allowed to touch the children. AT ALL. Yet that driver was given the blame because he didn’t break up the fight. He called for help on the bus radio. He was OLD. You want those kids turning on him? You maybe want him to use the tire thumper on those kids, that were beating up the one? That poor Driver was out of a job no matter what the outcome.
    And now your putting seat belts on the busses? Oh Please.
    Let me know how that works out for you 5 years down the road. then 10 years down the road. If its still working. If you still think it was worth $8000 dollars of TAX PAYERS MONEY, when someone’s kid gets sent to the hospital for stitches because they got hit with the buckle from the seatbelt.

    • Janisu

      The safety of children on public school buses should be the main concern. A bus monitor in my view would be considered part-time and hours would only consist of the travel time to and from the school. The cost to me is minimal for the safety of children. With an on-board monitory defusing any disruptions during the bus ride which would also benefit the safety of children. Head Start has had seat belts on all their buses for the past 10+ years and bus monitors were added about 8 or 9 years ago! It has worked for them and I’m sure it can work for all public schools!!